Ditch problems now to avoid future flooding woe, riparian owners urged

'Keeping watercourses well maintained benefits the community as a whole'


Release date: 9 November 2018

Drainage ditch owners are being urged to take action now to prevent flooding when wintry weather descends.

People with a watercourse, ditch, stream, river or culvert on or next to their land are known as ‘riparian owners’. They are responsible for maintaining the watercourses to ensure they are not a flood risk to other people or properties.
Removing vegetation, grass, weeds, shrubs and other debris helps water to run freely and prevent flooding.

Following feedback from parish councils and community groups, the county council has updated its guides to riparian ownership and responsibilities. A new leaflet, short film, posters and more detailed guidance are available online. Please see our Managing flood risk page.

Roger Elkins, county council Cabinet Member for Highways and Infrastructure, said: “Keeping watercourses well maintained benefits the community as a whole. If an area experiences constant flooding, this becomes a nuisance to the community. It makes everyday living difficult and results in considerable expense and inconvenience for those that have been flooded.”

Debbie Kennard, Cabinet Member for Safer, Stronger Communities, added: “The cost of maintaining a watercourse is minor compared to the costs that can arise from flood damage, not to mention the distress and inconvenience caused if your property is flooded.

“If you are a riparian ditch owner responsible for keeping your ditch clear, and with safety being paramount, it makes sense to do it when it’s dry.”

The council’s Operation Watershed Active Communities Fund remains open to support community groups interested in delivering capital projects to reduce the risk and impact of flooding in their area.

For more information email: operation.watershed@westsussex.gov.uk.

Community action case study

The Manhood Wildlife and Heritage Group, a volunteer-led wildlife charity on the Manhood Peninsula, manages ditches and ponds for people and wildlife.

Jane Reeve from the group said: “Riparian responsibility is important for the management of water to prevent flooding, which affects people’s lives and wellbeing, and for wildlife which is adversely affected by pollution and rapid water level rises.

“By gently managing ditches and waterways in the autumn, when they are dry and accessible, flood risk can be reduced.

“Leaving some vegetation on the banks is the key, allowing plant roots and some growth to hold the soil and prevent erosion. Wherever wetlands are sympathetically managed for drainage improvement, wildlife moves in and the environment is improved and can become an attractive feature.”

Safely removing rubbish and debris from ditches was a good start as this would prevent culverts getting blocked and take away material which could attract rats.

Jane added: “We carry out weekly working parties across the area and during our habitat improvement work see water voles, kingfishers and other exciting species – do join us. Please see the Manhood Wildlife and Heritage Group website.“

Pictured: Manhood Wildlife and Heritage Group members who took part in pond restoration work at Hilton Business Park, East Wittering

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